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Adobe Building Zoetrope, a Web "Time Machine" 133

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the data-lovers-unite dept.
Khuffie writes "Adobe, along with the University of Washington, are developing Zoetrope, an application that will offer a dynamic new view of the web. It is hard to explain on paper, but you can see a brilliant video of the application in action. Essentially, Zoetrope will allow users to travel back in time through a website, and see how the website gets changed. A user can create lenses on the website, for example, focusing on the price of a DVD at Amazon, and see how the price went up and down over the coming months. More interestingly, you can link lenses together across different websites, and for example, see how the price of gas was affected by say, the aggregated google news result of 'war.'"
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Adobe Building Zoetrope, a Web "Time Machine"

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  • by Facegarden (967477) on Monday December 08, 2008 @03:53PM (#26037981)

    I feel like there is a porn joke in here somewhere...
    -Taylor

  • by Digitus1337 (671442) <lk_digitus&hotmail,com> on Monday December 08, 2008 @04:03PM (#26038139) Homepage

    . . . and see how the price went up and down over the coming months.

    This is all I need to make the change from more traditional investments to a DVD-based retirement plan!

  • Archive.org (Score:3, Insightful)

    by chonglibloodsport (1270740) on Monday December 08, 2008 @04:06PM (#26038193)
    Guess they haven't heard of the Wayback Machine [archive.org].
    • Yeah I was just about to mention that too.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Guess it's more like "we want our own".
    • Re:Archive.org (Score:5, Insightful)

      by timeOday (582209) on Monday December 08, 2008 @04:16PM (#26038345)
      I think the whole point of this is the analysis capability. It's not just snapshots of old web pages. For that matter it might use archive.org as its data source.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No, it will be just like Archive.org but with valuable statistics gathering that I'm sure Adobe will give away for free. /sarcasm

      Basically, after having read the article I see this as a tool for creating "Business Intelligence" rather than simple Internet Navel Gazing. I'm sure somewhere at Adobe Prime there are marketing meetings deciding how best to secure and sell this information once it is packaged.

    • Re:Archive.org (Score:5, Informative)

      by Justin Hopewell (1260242) on Monday December 08, 2008 @04:29PM (#26038503)
      From the article: "Kris Carpenter, who directs efforts to record Web pages at the Internet Archive, is enthusiastic about the new tool. "This is a fantastic leap forward," she says, adding that Zoetrope could be used as a stand-alone application or eventually become part of the browser. "The advances of the interface are phenomenal in terms of being able to navigate data in a very different way and associate it across websites," Carpenter says. "I think most users have an interest in trying to connect the dots between different sources of information, but there are almost no tools available to make that an easy thing to do." She adds that the Internet Archive is interested in sharing its data with the Zoetrope researchers."
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by negRo_slim (636783)

      Guess they haven't heard of the Wayback Machine [archive.org].

      Well except for the fact The Archive now retroactively obeys robots.txt [archive.org] made it all but worthless the last half dozen times I was there.

      • Yep, this is a damn shame. Add this to IA's general flakiness and you will learn to _always_ save a local copy of an IA page if you care about it, it may not be there the next time...

      • by Toonol (1057698) on Monday December 08, 2008 @06:17PM (#26040039)
        Use the wayback machine to visit it before it started retroactively honoring robots.txt.
      • by MushMouth (5650)

        It's always retroactively obeyed robots.txt, Brewster's first rule is don't get sued.

      • by Ilgaz (86384)

        They must obey. Everything related to search and archiving better obey the robots.txt. Especially Archive.org type sites.

        Do you know how many real life problems that kind of non obeying engines created and keeps creating? robots.txt is there for a reason, even at this site ( slashot.org/robots.txt )

    • by sgbett (739519)

      It makes you wonder if it was adobe who actually collected all the retrospective data that is driving their new 'machine' !

    • Guess you haven't read the article...

      Other projects, such as the Internet Archive, already preserve historical versions of websites. But Mira Dontcheva, a research scientist in the Advanced Technologies Lab at Adobe Systems, where Zoetrope was developed, says the new tool makes it much easier to browse through this kind of data. "Having access to temporal information can help us come up with more compelling stories of what's going on around us," she says.

  • Sloganeering (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 08, 2008 @04:10PM (#26038265)

    From the blurb:

    More interestingly, you can link lenses together across different websites, and for example, see how the price of gas was affected by say, the aggregated google news result of 'war.'"

    Actually, no... You can't use this tool to see how the one thing was affected by the other. You can see how they both changed with respect to time, but that isn't the same.

    Please to keep in mind the famous Slashdot Mantra: Correlation is not causation.

    • by srmalloy (263556)

      And the "Post hoc, ergo propter hoc" fallacy.

      The value of this ability to link views is going to be pretty minimal at first unless they plan on pulling data from sites like www.archive.org, since an application like this relies on having the archived data to be able to show the changes over time, and without linking into or hoovering an existing internet archive, they'll never be able to take you back earlier than they first started saving websites. But over time it will get more valuable.

    • Re:Sloganeering (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Angostura (703910) on Monday December 08, 2008 @05:14PM (#26039127)

      Please to keep in mind the famous Slashdot Mantra: Correlation is not causation.

      Please bear in mind the slightly less pithy, but more useful version:

      Correlation is not necessarilycausation.

      • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Monday December 08, 2008 @05:27PM (#26039315)

        Or the completely accurate but much less trite version:

        Correlation implies either causation or mutual causation by a third factor.

        • Re:Sloganeering (Score:5, Informative)

          by DragonWriter (970822) on Monday December 08, 2008 @05:41PM (#26039545)

          Or the completely accurate but much less trite version:

          Correlation implies either causation or mutual causation by a third factor.

          That's not completely accurate. The completely accurate form is:

          Degree of correlation implies a certain probability of some causal link (either direct or through a shared cause.)

          Its quite possible for corresponding values from two completely unrelated sequences to show some degree of correlation, after all. If I have two sequences whose corresponding (e.g., by time) values lok like this:

          S1: 1 1 2 3 4 3 2 1 1
          S2: 2 2 3 4 5 4 3 2 2

          I certainly might suspect that there is a tight correlation between S1 and S2, but each of them could just be random integers chosen from the range 1 to 6, inclusive. Using statistics, I can say how unlikely that coincidence is, but that doesn't mean that I can simply state as a fact that there is a causal link because there is a correlation.

          • Yes, exactly, thank you.
          • by DrVomact (726065)

            Or we could be completely accurate and succinct:non-correlation proves non-causality.

            Now, what was this about, again?

            • Non-correlation doesn't prove non-causality because there are infinitely many functions where X is causally related to Y, but X and Y have zero correlation. I think the easiest summary is that non-zero correlation implies the possibility of a causal relationship, and vice versa.
              • by DrVomact (726065)

                I was actually thinking about this while taking my shower this morning (the place where I do my second-best thinking). I felt uneasy about my assertion; it's obviously glib, and I'm not even sure it's intuitively appealing. I'm not mathematically inclined, so I was trying to analyze it in logical terms.

                The assertion I so flippantly made could be expressed as Non-correlation between two series of events proves they are not causally related.. To prove this logically false requires only a single counter-exampl

          • by ceoyoyo (59147)

            I should have specified: "correlation" implies an ACTUAL correlation.

            We can only ever establish to a certain (often arbitrarily small) probability that an actual correlation exists.

            In your example, if the two number sequences are just random integers, then they are not actually correlated, no matter how much they may appear to be so.

          • by vegiVamp (518171)

            I believe the correct form is this:

            They might be related, but you won't know for sure until you get off your arse and do the numbers.

          • I, OTOH, can say with certainty that the two sequences of numbers share a common cause of you wanting to show that a degree of correlation implies a certain probabibility of some causal link.
        • by Vexorian (959249)
          I prefer "There's a correlation between correlation and causation"
      • No, correlation is never causation.

        Sometimes correlation is due to causation, but they aren't ever the same thing.

      • If anyone knows why my comments recently started appearing with score 1, despite "Excellent" karma, I'd love to hear.

        I set "Karma Bonus" to 0, since IMO, it's tantamount to "Consistent Group-think Bonus," thus not deserving any bonus. Perhaps you forgot that you had the same insight and had removed this bias from your configuration.

        (Pro-tip: Likewise, setting Troll & Flamebait to +1 exposes far more moderation abuse than genuine trolls & flames, since (for example) at least one positive moderation is required to display these comments with threshold >=1.)

    • Ummm, don't forgot about the news writers on the economy who aren't necessarily smart enough to understand the "famous Slashdot Mantra: Correlation is not causation." They tend to think that if it happened on the same day, then it must have been the root cause. To them this tool will be a God send, they will be able to postulate all sorts of insane theories such as the number of shoppers on black Friday to snow fall in the midwest.
  • at first, I thought AlphaChrome [wikipedia.org] was back.

  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Monday December 08, 2008 @04:14PM (#26038323) Journal

    The system is limited, however, by how much historical data is available. To test the tool, the researchers chose 1,000 frequently updated websites and stored information captured every hour over four months.

    But for Zoetrope to cover the entire Web would mean capturing huge amounts of data, says Eytan Adar, a PhD student at the University of Washington who was involved with the research. He has investigated the rates at which people tend to check different pages for updates and says that such information could provide insights into how often pages need to be recorded, thereby reducing the amount of data that needs to be stored. "It's impossible to crawl and capture some of these things at the rate at which they're changing," Adar says. "But for something like Zoetrope, it's a smaller percentage of the Web that we want to track. We don't actually need to get every single page that's out there."

    To make any money, the Zoetrope people will either have to sell this application to websites or setup their own very limited search engine with ads. And if they go search engine style, they'll have no historical data.

    It's a neat idea, but the practical applications are still questionable at best.

    • "practical applications are still questionable at best."

      Funny, I heard the same thing about Livejournal, Facebook, and later, Twitter.

      Now each of those are worth hundreds of millions, and are used by hundreds of millions of people. "Practical" isn't a neccessary prerequisite for success.

      • Is Twitter worth millions? Last I heard they were having a hard time figuring out how to make any money...
        • by owlnation (858981)

          Is Twitter worth millions? Last I heard they were having a hard time figuring out how to make any money...

          Worth? No. Neither is Facebook. They are only worth something to the executives who run those sites -- IF they get bought by some foolish large corporation. It was foolish to buy them 2 years ago, and it would be certifiably insane to do so in the current economic climate. These sites are only a means to advertise to a specific (gullible, obviously) demographic. They are just billboards in cyberspace.

    • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Monday December 08, 2008 @04:39PM (#26038637)
      I can see this working if the websites offer a way through a standardized API to share this information. Then support becomes the problem of the website. If this thing catches on, it would be the best interest of website owners to support it and the users would love it. This is similar in concept to a more complex version of RSS support.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by VGPowerlord (621254)

        If this thing catches on, it would be the best interest of website owners to support it

        So every mistake made on their website ever is kept around? Mmm, I have a feeling website owners won't be as happy about it as you think.

  • About The name (Score:3, Insightful)

    by syngularyx (1070768) on Monday December 08, 2008 @04:15PM (#26038333)
    Zoetrope sucks
  • The article mentions only a small portion of the internet being Zoetroped so you will probably be limited to data that is not useful. Who cares what a DVD cost yesterday if I am stuck with the price today?
  • Auto-update (Score:4, Insightful)

    by syousef (465911) on Monday December 08, 2008 @04:28PM (#26038485) Journal

    Just like Acrobat Reader, the real innovation will be a user interface with options that don't stick, and invasive phone home auto-update technology that is difficult or impossible to switch off. It'll be a time machine allowing you to see just how little Adobe have changed over the years.

    • Re:Auto-update (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ConceptJunkie (24823) on Monday December 08, 2008 @06:00PM (#26039817) Homepage Journal

      Don't forget the hideous bloat and geometrically increasing load times with each successive versions.

      The Acrobat Reader was a bizarre creature. The first couple versions were almost unusably bad, then they finally got it right around version 4, and each successive version has been bigger, slower and less useful (even if it supported more features). Like Windows 2000, Office 97, and the old /. user homepages... something that actually worked really well but was ruined by the relentless, mindless drive to Add More Stuff.

      I could never figure out how software developers can make a program that does something simple quickly, and then add a ton of features and end up with a version that is 10 times slower to do the exact same simple thing it used to do quickly. Moore's Law has created a generation of retarded programmers.

    • by Ilgaz (86384)

      Phone home? Professional software right? The Photoshop which everyone pirates for example?

      Adobe software have always checked for updates and these days which giving a pdf link became common and people finding amazing issues, they better check without "phoning home".

      I mean the Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash, Air type end user "player" stuff. They are way less invasive than lately introduced, OS X Admin (OS X root) running Google "updaters" buried in near all Google apps. At least Adobe Updater hits net, reads if

  • The power of the Internet to retain acts, deeds, and knowledge for so long is disturbing to me. There are Usenet posts I made 10 years ago that will never go away.
    • The power of the Internet to retain acts, deeds, and knowledge for so long is disturbing to me. There are Usenet posts I made 10 years ago that will never go away.

      No, i really don't find it scary. Probably just because i have grown up with it, but i know i have forum posts that have been around almost as many years and i don't really care. I think people are adjusting to the idea that this stuff can be permanent, and just changing their behavior accordingly.
      -Taylor

    • by cffrost (885375)

      Anyone else find this scary?

      I used to; not anymore. Social-net sites like MySpace are filled with people who are ignorant to, or genuinely don't care about, the ramifications of not just putting any/every aspect of their lives online, but tying it to personal identifiers ("a/s/l," real name, phone numbers). These high-quality targets for exploitation overshadow the online historic profiles of those with the foresight to use one or more pseudonyms and limit the amount of personal info they associate with their pseudonym(s).

  • Skeptical... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Monday December 08, 2008 @04:34PM (#26038567) Homepage

    The presented features do look nifty, especially the graph, but one big problem I see is that the timespans it can process will likely end up rather short. Webpage design changes over time and when that happens lensing will get troublesome, since content might no longer be where it used to be. Also the tool only seems to work on portal pages, while most real content is hidden in some sub page, which naturally doesn't have much of a history.

  • by mblase (200735) on Monday December 08, 2008 @04:36PM (#26038585)

    It is hard to explain on paper,

    ...which is okay, since neither one of us is using any.

    Always makes me wonder: when was the last time anybody actually "dialed" a phone? And someday kids will wonder why it's called "YouTube" when they've only ever watched it on a thin, flat LCD screen....

    • by owlnation (858981)

      And someday kids will wonder why it's called "YouTube" when they've only ever watched it on a thin, flat LCD screen....

      They may already not be very familiar with cathode ray tubes. But never fear... Ted Stephens "a series of tubes" should last for a very, very, very long time. At least here, if nowhere else.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mea37 (1201159)

      My inner pedant would assert that "dial" doesn't mean what you think it means. Meaning comes from usage; etymology just tries to make some sense of it.

      But whatever, I'll play along: Actually, I have a rotary phone still hooked up. I almost never use it. In fact, I put it in a guest room. I find it funny (but I'm not sure if my guests do). I do test it from time to time to make sure the network where I live will still handle pulse dialing; surprisingly it will. So I've "dialed" a phone (in the sense y

    • Always makes me wonder: when was the last time anybody actually "dialed" a phone?

      As of about two years ago, my next door neighbor was still using the rotary phone that she had originally rented from AT&T.

      For all I know, she still is.

  • by Wannabe Code Monkey (638617) on Monday December 08, 2008 @04:39PM (#26038633)
  • Pointless rubbish from the company that brought us other pointless rubbish (Flash anyone?)
    • by bahstid (927038)
      Not pointless. In fact I think this about the coolest thing I've seen in ages, and think the concepts will be much emulated. Go watch the video. And yes, I am also quite baffled that Adobe is involved in this, as its an entirely different market for them. Hehehehe and I do have doubts as to how well Flash plays with Zoetrope.
    • by Ilgaz (86384)

      IMHO Flash has its place, especially after Air and recent developments which makes me believe it is heading to be an open standard. Especially Flash Lite on mobile devices, if becomes free for manufacturers.

      If we call it pointless what about the "me too" things like SilverLight and more recently, Java FX?

      Especially the SilverLight developer makes Adobe look like an angel.

  • It was reported by a few outlets that Obama's website changed a lot during the political campaign. It would be an interesting application of this technology, to keep a watch on political websites.

    • It was reported by a few outlets that Obama's website changed a lot during the political campaign. It would be an interesting application of this technology, to keep a watch on political websites.

      Well, I mean..... that was kind of his entire platform :-P

      • by ral8158 (947954)

        I agree! His platform did contain a well-outlined and comprehensively defined 'change' in many aspects of US Government.

  • by noidentity (188756) on Monday December 08, 2008 @04:59PM (#26038883)

    A user can create lenses on the website, for example, focusing on the price of a DVD at Amazon, and see how the price went up and down over the coming months

    1. See how the price of a stock "went" up and down over the coming months.
    2. ???
    3. Profit!!!

    Any ideas on step 2? It's escaping me at the moment...

  • And we trust Adobe to implement this in a non-threatening for-the-greater-good socialistic sorta way?

    I don't think so....

  • This seems like it's showing correlations, not necessarily causal relationships. Still, neat stuff.
  • Wow (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Idiomatick (976696) on Monday December 08, 2008 @05:19PM (#26039195)

    The tool looks really REALLY powerful. They really need to change it so it can be more easily used by the noob though. I would even suggest that the links showing trends can be linked to. That way if you want to make a point in a debate you can point someone to your lensed construct. Or there can be sites that will list interesting correlations like in blogs or w/e. Here it would be VERY useful. If they make it a web-based system with no download it would be much much more powerful again. The only big problem I see is the implementation. Gathering so much info is hard not impossible but! following information as sites move and evolve will be impossible. I think they will need to be able to grab historical data as will as a sites own history... for example instead of linking to your own graph allow linking to google stocks or google trends. A lot of those reach back to the 70s which is more useful than the last 8mnths.

  • I wonder how Francis Ford Coppola feels about this?

    http://www.zoetrope.com/about.cgi [zoetrope.com]

    http://www.all-story.com/ [all-story.com]

    I know this is my (Mr. Hyde) lit-geek side talking, but I thought he nearly owned that word.

    • by Krigl (1025293)
      Well, instead of computer app he should be more concerned with an interesting Zoetrope [lustmord.com] album by Lustmord [wikipedia.org], which is much closer to his area of work.
  • focusing on the price of a DVD at Amazon, and see how the price went up and down over the coming months.

    Wow, I can see how the price of a product varied in the future? Wonder if it works with the stock exchange or gambling...

    • Can the International Date Line help?

      • by Tacvek (948259)

        No man, the International Date Line will never help. First of all it's a darn 900 number, so the fees are outrageous, and it still did not help me find a date (neither a local one, nor a International date). I think it is a scam. ;D

  • The multi-dimensional nature of this app seems to me that it could greatly benefit from the multi-touch interfaces we're starting to see, (although perhaps not as far as Minority Report [slashdot.org]).
  • by glwtta (532858) on Monday December 08, 2008 @09:04PM (#26041987) Homepage
    I think it's only hard to explain "on paper" if you insist on using nonsensical phrases like "will allow users to travel back in time through a website". How hard is it to just say "will show website changes over time"?

    Looks pretty cool, though.
  • The problem is...who is storing the data?

    Is that a WebArchive with 20 seconds resolution? How much data would that yield?

    Or do I have to tag some website for a day before I can see that?

    Or is there a P2P solution (like with content addressing DHT?) for that?

  • on websites using Flash ? (that doesn't get indexed by archive.org, and didn't until recently by google) :D
  • A "web Time machine" already exists, they call the "Web archive" and it isn't a commercial crapware like everything Adobe does. You know, we are talking about the company that exploits unused sectors of the hard disk to store the nasty DRM of their software crap, surely I wouldn't give them a fucking bit of anything to analyse on the web..... http://www.archive.org/index.php [archive.org]

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